Environment

Could you do it?
6:14 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Exhibit inspires woman to try to avoid buying plastics for a month

A look at the accumulation of plastics that crept into Sam Porter's life, despite her pledge not to use or buy any new plastics for a month.
courtesy Burke Museum

Plastics have only been in wide use since the 1940s, yet they are everywhere, from sandwich bags to phones, to keyboards, to rain gear. Even the cans of soup in the grocery aisle are lined with it.

It's hard to imagine a world before these conveniences. What would your life be like without plastics?

Seattle resident Samantha Porter decided to find out. She works behind the scenes of the Burke Museum, which is hosting an exhibit titled "Plastics Unwrapped."

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green design
5:01 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Latest in 'living building' green design: Self-sustaining classroom

The lab area inside the new SEEDclassroom in Seattle, which is aiming to become the first portable to meet the strict sustainability criteria of the "Living Building Challenge."
Bellamy Pailthorp Photo KPLU News

A prototype of a self-sustaining portable classroom has arrived at a parking lot in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

The classroom is meant to set a higher bar for schools by demonstrating they can meet the highest standard of green building design, the Living Building Challenge, fairly quickly. 

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electric vehicles
12:01 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Nissan electric car sales booming in Washington state

In this photo taken May 26, 2011, show a Nissan Leaf charging in Portland, Ore.

The automaker Nissan says sales of its fully-electric Leaf compact surpassed all other Nissan models at dealers in the Seattle and Portland areas this spring. The announcement Wednesday runs counter to the prevailing wisdom that adoption of plug-in cars has been sluggish.

At Nissan USA headquarters, director of electric vehicle marketing and sales Erik Gottfried says he's scrambling to ship enough Leafs to meet demand in the Pacific Northwest. The car maker juiced its plug-in sales by slashing the sticker price and offering low-cost leases. Gottfried says that was made possible by opening a domestic production line in Tennessee.

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protecting songbird
9:30 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Can this rare songbird be lured away from risky neighborhoods?

A streaked horned lark is seen in this photo.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A songbird called the streaked horned lark has a curious propensity for risky neighborhoods. That's not a good quality for a bird proposed for listing as a threatened species. Its preferred hangouts include airports, Army training fields, and dredge spoil dumping sites along the lower Columbia River. A two-state experiment seeks to find out if these rare larks can be enticed to safer habitats.

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HANFORD NUCLEAR RESERVATION
5:20 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Some Hanford water cleanup moving faster than expected

At the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the 100-DX Pump and Treat system, which treats groundwater near the D and DR reactors along the Columbia River.
Photo courtesy of CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company.

Cleanup of a hazardous chemical in the groundwater at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is going faster than expected.

Hexavalent chromium is the nasty stuff that made Erin Brockovich famous down in California. The chemical was used to inhibit rust in coolant water in Hanford’s reactors. But that water was dumped into the desert, and now the carcinogen is making its way toward the Columbia River in large groundwater plumes.

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Environment
5:01 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Inslee issues greenest-yet budget pledge for Climate Solutions

Governor Inslee addressing the 2013 Climate Solutions fundraiser.
Bellamy Pailthorp Photo KPLU News

As the special legislative session gets underway in Olympia, Gov. Jay Inslee says some of the most important parts of his two-year budget proposal are investments in clean energy.

During a fundraiser for the nonprofit group Climate Solutions on Monday, the governor said he is pushing for a state budget that includes funds to start a new research center at the University of Washington.

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Environment
10:59 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Greening up historic buildings: Seattle’s Town Hall as case study

Town Hall Seattle received Landmark status last year, but it's also embarking on a multi-million dollar green retrofit. Meeting requirements of both is the subject of a "design charette" Wednesday during the 2013 Government Confluence in Seattle.
Bellamy Pailthorp Photo KPLU News

Seattle has been in the spotlight lately as the home to the world’s greenest new office building, the Bullitt Center. Also under construction is the headquarters of Brooks Sports in Fremont, which promises to be “deep green.”

But what about all the buildings that are already standing?

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Ways of the Wild
5:01 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Eagles return, drive entire colony of herons out of Kiwanis Ravine

A great blue heron is seen building a nest at Commodore Park.
Philip Maser Heron Habitat Helpers

The great blue heron is one of Washington’s most iconic birds, as is the bald eagle. Now, it seems eagle attacks on heron nests are driving herons to abandon the largest colony in Seattle. And volunteers are asking local residents to help them figure out where the herons have gone.

For more than a decade, Pam Cahn has monitored the dozens of heron nests at Kiwanis Ravine near Discovery Park in northwest Seattle. The volunteer citizen-scientist has kept track of eggs laid, chicks hatched and fledglings flown, then sent the data to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife for record-keeping.

But Cahn says this season, eagles have wreaked havoc on the approximately 90 heron nests in Kiwanis Ravine.

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northwest fishermen
8:04 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

Pebble Mine opponents put value of Bristol Bay fishery at $1.5 billion

Sockey salmon in Bristol Bay support about 12,000 jobs annually in fishing and processing industries, according to a new economic impact report from the University of Alaska's Institute for Social and Economic Research
toddraden Photo Flickr

Though it’s thousands of miles away, a proposed mine for gold and copper in Alaska’s Bristol Bay threatens to destroy the livelihood of thousands of people in the Puget Sound area. 

Seattle’s fleet of commercial fishermen and seafood processors have been a big part of the opposition to the so-called Pebble Mine.

A new economic report puts the value of Bristol Bay’s salmon at $1.5 billion per year, and says more than a quarter of the jobs it generates are located in Washington state.

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Sustainability
5:01 am
Thu May 9, 2013

'Slow Flowers': Seattle author's case for sustainably-grown flowers

Debra Prinzing

Like many other holidays, Mother’s Day has become quite commercialized. Along with a Hallmark card often comes a perfect-looking bouquet of flowers that have traveled thousands of miles to get to your front door.

But for those who long for flowers with a local tie and fewer pesticides, there are other options.

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sequester
3:53 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Canceled open house latest effect of sequester on parks, science

Mount St. Helens is seen from Johnston's Ridge Observatory.
woodleywonderworks Flickr

A much-loved open house at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver did not take place over the weekend. The center is run by the U.S. Geological Survey, which had to cancel the program due to the federal budget sequestration.

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shopping green
4:14 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Want to be green? Have your groceries delivered

Amazon Fresh is one of the grocery delivery options in Seattle. Others include Safeway.com and the new Seattle startup, Geniusdelivery. Google is testing a service in the San Francisco area. FreshDirect serves New York City.
leff Flickr

Having your groceries delivered might seem like a self-indulgent luxury.

But researchers at the University of Washington have found that, most of the time, you can feel good about doing something for the environment when you order your groceries online and have them delivered instead of making a trip to the store.

“We like to call it 'the bus for groceries,'” said Anne Goodchild, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW.

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Light Rail expansion
5:01 am
Wed April 24, 2013

Tacoma City Council favors Hilltop area for light rail extension

City of Tacoma

Tacoma is on the brink of more than doubling the length of its Sound Transit Link Light Rail line.

Under a plan just recommended by the Tacoma City Council, the current starter line between the Tacoma Dome and the city's downtown would extend north into the Hilltop neighborhood. 

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urban planning
10:48 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Micro-housing boom has some Seattle neighborhoods up in arms

DarthNick photo Flickr

New buildings packed with dorm-like rooms for rent have been popping up in Seattle’s densest neighborhoods.

A grey area in the law is allowing these so-called “micro-housing” projects to go up without neighborhood comment. A brown-bag discussion on the issue of takes place at City Hall today.

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wastewater settlement
1:35 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Seattle, King County to spend $1.5 billion on wastewater upgrades

Concrete culvert with street sewer water draining from an embankment into Seattle's Carkeek Park.
Wonderlane photo Flickr

The city of Seattle and King County will spend $1.46 billion on upgrades to public sewer systems aimed at reducing the amount of polluted water entering the Puget Sound and other waterways, according to a federal settlement filed under the Clean Water Act. 

Under the agreement, the city and county will also pay $750,000 in fines for dumping raw sewage into the Sound and several lakes. 

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